18 Summers

There is a meme around the mommy blogosphere that says we have 18 summers with our children before they fly the nest. For the most part this is true. My son is 16. It occurs to me that I will get more than 18 summers with my dear boy, because with autism he will need our help for longer. In fact, we don’t know if he will ever be truly independent because of the nature of his disability. I know Frank and I will have to push for independence of some kind, perhaps supported housing, for Prince, who very much wants to be independent, because we’re not getting any younger and won’t be around forever. But still I reckon I have received not a youngster with tragic disabilities (which is what some people automatically think of any kind of disability) but a blessing in the form of an innately innocent, deep-thinking young man who by his very nature needs someone to take care of him. This is not a burden. This is a mama’s blessing.

Thoughts from an English Housewife

I am stupidly tired. Stupid because all I did to set it off was to walk briskly into town and back. On Wednesday. Not even yesterday. So very little got done yesterday and I doubt much will get done today. For a homemaker to not be able to do housework is a teensy bit soul destroying.

I’m plodding through Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying  and am so keen to get on with it. I did manage to fill two bags with clothes for the charity shop yesterday, learned how to properly fold socks (yes, that really is a thing, read the book), loaded up the dishwasher (while singing ‘thank you, God, for the dishwasher’ to the tune of ‘Hallelujah, Praise the Lord’), made some important phone calls and prepared dinner. But that was it, other than the school run. Meh.

On the other hand, today the weather is absolutely gorgeous. I can lie here on my bed and see the bright, bright sky, strands of fluffy white clouds rushing through the blue, the branches of silver birches waving in the wind. Earlier, when the sun was lower in the sky, the leaves seemed to sparkle as they reflected the light, making the trees seem ethereal and other-worldly as they danced and glittered. So beautiful. Now the blue has disappeared to make way for some greyer cloud, but the sun is still shining. No doubt there will be some rain, too, later on. It is, after all, England in July. Summertime and the weather is breezy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is dry(ing outside on the washing line).

I find I am simultaneously fed up with my physical health, with spending so much time alone, investing the vast majority of my energy into caring for my family, yet also overjoyed by all the goodness of a glorious summer’s day and so thrilled to have discovered the KonMari Method that I can hardly wait to get the rest of the house decluttered and organised.

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The clouds are even darker now and the sun is hidden. It’s definitely going to rain, unless the wind blows it over our town before it starts to drop.

I do so love this place. I love this house. I love my son – what a sweet young man I now have, and in the Sixth Form! He’s even beginning to remember things for himself and beginning to organise himself for school. He is not going to get any GCSEs or A-Levels, but the fact that he is getting to school more or less on time is a wonderful achievement. I am so proud of him, and told him so this morning 🙂

I love my daughter – what a bright, boisterous, confident and determined young lady I have. She will soon have finished her second year of secondary school. Granted she needs to learn how to listen a bit more (teenage hormones have made her very inattentive) but how wonderful that my little girl who used to be so anxious and sad is now genuinely thriving. Hallelujah! And she sticks up for what she believes in, even if that means going against her peers. That has to be a definition of at least somewhat successful parenting, don’t you think?

Then there’s the youngest, my second daughter, Little Miss Chip, who is coming to the end of primary school and will go off to her new school in September in her smart new uniform, very much a little fish in a big pond. Her good friend, a cheerful, moon-faced boy who goes to the same Theatre School as Chip, will be in the same class (thank you, Lord!). Jimmy is such a sweet boy. But I can’t believe I will soon have no more children in primary school (sniff)!

Of course, nothing would be possible without my darling Frank. He is kind and intelligent, patient and hard-working. We celebrated six years of marriage recently and for us it’s not just a wedding anniversary, it’s a celebration of the day we became a family. Chip had food poisoning, so she said it was our Sick Anniversary, but… It was a happy day. Frank is a lovely man. My soul mate, if there is such a thing.

So now you see why I am simultaneously hugely fed-up and enormously thankful. Knowing my smallness, I offer both to God. He knows my  smallness even better than I. He is the God of Great Love in the good times, and the God of Great Love in the bad times, and the God of Great Love in the in-betweeny bits. I write as testimony to His grace.

God remembered us when we were down,

His love never quits.

Rescued us from the trampling boot,

His love never quits.

Takes care of  everyone in times of need,

His love never quits.

Thank God, who did it all!

His love never quits!

Psalm 136:23-26 (The Message)

Just Ask

Ask and it will be given to you…

Matthew 7:7

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Don’t stop. Don’t give up. God never withholds. This is the God of abundant grace. If I’m asking for what He’s in the business of giving, I’ll get it. And then some.

So today I’m asking for the strength and patience to get a certain young man to school and for the endurance to do what needs to be done, because I am fatigued.

 

 

Being Mummy

My kids still all call me ‘mummy’. The girls will also call me the slightly more grown-up ‘mum’, but for Prince, with his need for things to stay the same, it’s ‘mummy’ even at 16. I love being ‘mummy’ although there have been a few times when I have muttered something along the lines of ‘I’m going to change my name’, especially when there are several voices clamouring all at once. This is even more apparent when we have Grandma with us, too, because with her dementia comes a lessened awareness of those around her (at least, I think that’s what it is). I might have children asking me for help, or advice, or permission, and Grandma happily chimes in with her own observations or question, with seemingly no idea that the kids are bombarding me too! Still, I have to say, I have one of the nicest mother-in-laws on the planet. And three lovely, lively children. We’re far from the perfect family but, by grace, we’re ok. There’s a lot of love in our higgledy-piggledy house. More than enough, because our God is a God of abundance.

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from idpinthat.com

I made peace with feeling inadequate because the truth is I was. I still am; we all are… Look at Mary, the mother of Christ… [she was very young] when she became a mother. I’m sure she was no more ready than I was to answer a high-pitched voice when asked all sorts of questions to which she didn’t know the answers. But God had called her to parent, and so she did. 

When I thought about Mary, I decided not to strive to be a perfect mother, but to simply endeavour to be like she was: completely unprepared, but ready to take the child God handed to her…

Mary was a mother. I am a mother…

God has a way of using inadequate people… We simply trust Him, and then we have everything we need to do the ‘more’ that He has asked of us.

~ from Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20,21 (NRSVA)

Fear Not

My darling boy is in constant pain and I can’t do a thing. I am trying to juggle attempts at homeschooling him, managing my own illness, being Mummy to the other two children (honestly, who invented teenage girls?!) and maintaining a clean and tidy house. A friend ‘gave’ me the verses Isaiah 43:1-3 and after a search I came across this song. I find myself holding onto Jesus’ hand and taking each day one step at a time. I don’t know why I ever thought I could do anything other than this, because it is a blessed way to live, really.  Are you struggling? Then this is for you:

Weary

Shuttling back and forwards to the city hospital has been hard. My own illness is – er – making itself known. Prince has an operation tomorrow. Today we have to go back so he can get a blood test done. Yesterday there wasn’t time to wait because I had to get home for when Chip finished school. My body is protesting.  I have a cup of coffee by my side but although it will help me get through today, it won’t change the fact that I will somehow have to ‘borrow spoons’ (google ‘spoon theory’ if you’re baffled by the phrase!) against tomorrow. But I borrowed spoons yesterday already and if I’m not careful I’ll be flat on my back for weeks. What do I do? I have to put my family first. There’s no other way around it. Prince has to go to the hospital today and he has to go to the hospital tomorrow and then I can rest. I hope.

I said, “I have worked but how hopeless it is! I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.” 

Yet I can trust the Lord to defend my cause; he will reward me for what I do.

Isaiah 49:4 (GNT)

“Come to me, all of you who are tired… and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

Maybe it’s a blessing to be always weary? Maybe it keeps me ‘low’ so that I stay low, and ever reaching out to my dear Jesus. I don’t have the energy to figure it out. Pray for us, please?

Ninja Mum

They say bad things come in threes. I guess they can’t count. As well as poor old Prince’s ongoing health problems, we’ve had an outbreak of the dreaded lurgy. First little Chip was throwing up all over the place, now Frank. I’m surprised I have any skin left on my hands what with the amount of washing they have undergone. I usually make my own cleaning products, but I don’t faff about when it comes to sickness. I am armed to the teeth with my trusty bleach and hygienically-cleaned rags to tackle every germ before it can even think about infecting anyone else. I am the Germinator Terminator. Nothing can get past me MWAHAHAHAHA!

 

 

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Just try it, sunshine.

Roots

[Jesus said] “…a farmer went out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds… fell on rocky ground, where they didn’t have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of earth. When the sun had risen, they were scorched. Because they had no root, they withered away.”

Matthew 13:3,5,6 (WEB)

As a parent, the most important thing I can give my child is roots. This is my God-given role. These roots consist of several things:

  • a loving, stable home
  • treating each child as an individual with unique, God-given talents**
  • encouragement and opportunity to make the most of their talents**
  • an experience of what it means to love both within and without our family
  • an experience of what it means to forgive and be forgiven
  • compassion for those who suffer, whether close at hand or far away
  • knowledge of the Word of God – a peg board on which to hang the ‘keys’ of all the above, providing each key with context, so that as the child grows they have ready-made tools, learned gently and softly through the years.

**As you’ll know if you’ve been reading for any length of time, we have a young man with special needs in our family. He may not ever live independently. He may never get a job. Even if he doesn’t, he is a Hand-crafted human being and has his own gifts and qualities that are worth celebrating. Jesus made sure He always esteemed the vulnerable. We should too.

Can you add any more to the list of ‘roots’? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Special Needs and a Special Post

The very lovely Jeannie Prinsen from Little House on the Circle has written a guest post for Ellen Stumbo about the realities of love and faith in the face of special needs. Here is a little excerpt:

I try to see the face of Jesus in them, and to minister to them with joy and humility.

This plan usually lasts for about… ten minutes.

The problem is:

Jesus does not ask me to tape or glue broken jigsaw puzzle pieces 20 times in an hour, or need to be reminded 19 out of those 20 times to say “Please.”

Jesus is not in the habit of yelling with rage when I tell him that this is blue-box week, not grey-box week, or that we go to church on Sundays, not Saturdays.

Jesus never screams (with hand up to mouth for increased megaphone effect) when told that it’s time to get ready for supper, and does not need to be told ten times to go to the bathroom and wash his hands.

Jesus does not say, “Mom? Mom?  Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom?”

And Jesus does not wait to say, “Mom? Mom?  Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom?” until I have gone downstairs to the laundry room, and then say it louder.

To read more of this wonderful post, click here. Is it wrong that I found myself laughing? Laughing not from humour, I suppose, although there is always humour or you’d never survive, but more a laughing over a shared sense of the ridiculous, and a shared sense of experience which when it is happening can feel hugely frustrating and isolating.

My son actually apologised to me today, unbidden, after I told him the world does not revolve around him (this is a foreign concept to a child with autism, as they genuinely struggle to see things from anyone else’s point of view and are often so bound by anxiety that the fact that other people might be fed up, or whatever, never occurs to them). I was so touched by this apology I nearly cried. But that would have made him balk so I didn’t. Life is never easy for families with special needs offspring. Say a little prayer for a family you know with special needs concerns, will you?

Be blessed, friends. Have a good weekend!

‘Mummy, Sometimes I Feel Like Killing Myself’

Frank is away this week in London on business. It’s been a surreal time. I miss him terribly. It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart, but I’m making the most of the time with just me and the children. Also, it has proved the EMDR is working because I am no longer panicking and paranoid when I’m alone in the house. I am coping. Yay!

Anyway, yesterday evening, Fluff was at gymnastics. Chip had lost this privilege earlier in the week through bad behaviour so at 6 o’clock she and I were eating soup with Prince, all nice and calm, like.

“Mummy,” Prince said matter-of-factly while munching toast, “sometimes I feel like I want to kill myself.”

If your child said this to you at the dinner table, how would you react? 

I took it in my stride… we are used to brutal honesty in this house, and we are used to a young man who often says things that are completely unexpected, especially at the dinner table for some reason! He may have autism and learning disabilities, but he’s a very deep thinker (can’t think where he gets that from, can you?). So, despite the seemingly terrible tea time conversation-starter in front of his 9-year-old sister, I asked dear Prince what made him say that. I wasn’t shocked or horrified or… anything, really. I just wanted to understand what he was thinking and why.

“Because sometimes,” Prince replied, “the world just seems like such a horrible place full of horrible things and I don’t want to live in a world like that.”

Bless his beautiful black-and-white thinking. He doesn’t have the social skills to recognise why saying exactly what you think might be socially unacceptable. e.g. when we were in the supermarket and he said, horrified (and within earshot), “Mummy, why does that lady stink?!”

So we had a conversation about a world full of sin and sorrow, and a caring, loving God whose heart was breaking seeing all the misery. We talked about how He sent His Son, who willingly gave Himself to be killed in the most horrible way, to experience for Himself the very worst suffering, so that the bridge between us and God could be mended. Eventually I promised to get him a notebook so that he can write down all of his feelings and show them to his counsellor, whom he sees monthly. Then the conversation took a slightly different turn.

“I’m not sure I want to be a Christian, Mummy.” He said, “I don’t want to be like you and Daddy. It’s too hard. I just want to be able to pray sometimes.”

We talked about love and what happens when God is your friend and constant companion. We talked about how love is the only thing to make a difference in the world, how love is the only thing worth living for, and how God is love. These conversations are always challenging, because Prince’s vocabulary is limited and his comprehension is very literal. I have to keep my language very simple and straightforward, and this is quite difficult!

I thanked God for the opportunity to talk to my son about Jesus on his terms. Church and Sunday School are pitched way over Prince’s head, so he’s never going to learn from there, even if he does recognise that church people are generally kind and friendly to one another. We’ve had some conversations around the dinner table, but that one was a corker.

What about you? Have you ever had stunning questions from your offspring? How have you dealt with it?